It's a bird...It's a plane...No, it's just a bug.

My friend sent me a link to a news story about a new study on "Super Lice" - lice that have gene mutations that have been linked to permethrin/pyrethrin resistance (the two most common pesticides found in lice "shampoos".)  Click here for The Telegraph's take on the story.

This big new news story is sure to cause some people to panic about head lice and wonder, "What ever will we do to stop head lice?" The answer is wet combing.  This news story is not new; lice have been shown to be resistant to these chemicals for years.  And, when I was doing home lice removal, almost 100% of my clients had first tried lice treatments that had contained permethrin (as found in Nix) or pyrethrin (as found in R&C).  But lice cannot build up a resistance to the simple act of taking the lice and nits off of the head.

Lice combing is not the most exciting activity.  But it is cheap (cheaper than buying the "shampoos")  and it works (better than the shampoos).  Now, I have a cheap but good lice comb already (and I recommend you have one on hand as well).  If one of my kids were to get head lice, which has happened, I would grab my comb and my conditioner and give my kid a combing faster than the time it would take me to go out and purchase a "shampoo", treat the hair, wait the amount of time the directions tell you to wait, wash the stuff out of the hair. I know that I would have to do more than one combing, but don't kid yourself with the "shampoos" - you have to do these more than once; some studies say that you have to now do them three times.  AND these "shampoos" still come with a comb and tell you to comb out the bugs and eggs.  These convenient treatments are not so convenient.  And, as we see with these news stories, they are not that effective.

So, have no fear of Super Lice.  You may not be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but with a good lice comb, you can still fight the bad guys.


Anonymous said...

Hi. My 4 yr old got lice.. I discovered it on Wednesday. That night I got a ton of products and shampooed her, and her 2 siblings, and myself and their dad. I combed everyone out, rinsing the comb in a bowl of hot water. A glass bowl, which ended up how I was able to see most of the lice. My 4 yr old had every life stage... adults, babies, nits.. probably over 100 all told. My other kids had eggs, maybe 50-100 in my 12 yr olds butt length hair and 30 or so in my 8 yr old son's hair. My husband and I only each had a few. I treated all of us twice that first night and combed once. The next night i slathered everyone in coconut oil and combed out.. found way less. Third night we did a spray in treatment and combing, found even less. 4th night we did the shampoo and combing again. I cut everyone's hair, the girls to shoulder length and shaved my son and husband to maybe 1/4 inch. 5th day we did isopropyl alcohol and a comb out.. I had zero, my son had zero, my older daughter had 2, my younger daughter had 3, my husband had 1. Then I put on the spray on and dry treatment again. I've had them sleeping in sleeping bags every night so we don't have to keep laundering bedding. All floors vacuumed, all bathrooms getting disinfected nightly. Do you think it's possible with continued combing go the next 2-3 days we can beat this? We have out of town company coming on Wednesday which will be 1 week past the start of this. Our company has hair that is very very important to them and I can't let them come if there's any chance of it still being here. My question is.. do you think with my rigorous daily treating and combing and cleaning that we can be past this in time for our houseguest? It's an important vsut or I'd just cancel precautionarily. But this visit can't be rescheduled for a very long time and I'm trying to do everything possible so it can still happen. I just want to know.. do you think it's possible to beat it in a week. We're almost bug and egg-free in everyone's heads as of sunday. We have till Wednesday before our company from out of town comes. Help?

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

Wow. You've been very busy. Please read posts on this blog about cleaning and laundering - they have not been proven effective in the fight against head lice. In other words, the only effort you have to put into this battle is in dealing with what's on the head. You don't have to change the bed sheets or vacuum daily, etc. I'm not joking. Stop the insanity.

As for what's going on with the head, I'm really glad to see that you are willing to put in all sorts of effort. However, in my opinion, you are doing too much. I don't recommend using any "shampoos" or sprays. There is research that has shown that the pesticides in lice shampoos are ineffective and there is no research that shows effectiveness in most of the other treatments you've used. I've been to many homes where every lice treatment available in my country was first tried by the family before they called me in and they didn't work. As you know, with any so-called treatments, you are still directed to do the combing. I feel you can just skip the treatments and go straight to the combing because that's what is actually getting the problem off the head.

So, the combing that you are doing is wonderful and that's what's going to beat this. I hope you have a good metal lice comb with long metal teeth that are very close together and very rigid. I recommend combing detangled wet hair that has been slathered in the cheapest conditioner (much cheaper than coconut oil). The conditioner keeps the hair wet and the bugs slow down or stop moving when wet. It also keeps the hair detangled and makes it easier to comb. There are great combs out their like the Nit Free Terminator or the Licemeister, but the comb I use is a cheap purple comb from Walmart. Cutting the hair is not necessary but it can make combing a lot easier as you have discovered. Keep combing - not every day but every few days until you have had 2 weeks with no new sightings of bugs or nits. By the way, any nits you see that are far away from the scalp are not a concern - they were laid long ago and have either already hatched or were not viable. Not pretty but not a threat. Again, stop with the other busy work and limit your attentions to getting the lice and nits off of the head.

Of course you can still have your company over on Wednesday. It seems you have removed all adult bugs. On the chance that you have missed some eggs, it's still OK because anything that hatches cannot leave the head for one week and by combing every few days, you will catch anything that you missed before it gets big enough to lay eggs. How long is your company staying? If you don't plan on telling them about your head lice, and they staying longer than a few days, you may need to figure out how you will continue to do your lice combing while they are there. I just do my routine combing in the shower and for my children, I just do their weekly lice check while they are in the bath. If you comb 100 times and find no lice or nits, I would stop combing for the day.

One other tool you can use in the fight against head lice is the hair dryer. Please look at other posts on this blog for how to use it.

You have spent a lot of money on products and I commend you for how willing you are to deal with this problem, but I would stop buying them for three reasons: they are expensive, they are ineffective, and they can irritate the scalp. Even too much lice combing can irritate the scalp and that's why you should really take a break of a couple of days between combings. An irritated scalp is an itchy scalp which can make you think you have more lice when you don't.

Please resist the urge to continue with all this lice activity. There are things worse than head lice like burnout, breakdowns, exhaustion, tensions in the home, etc. Simple combing will do the trick. Get your rest. You're going to need it - you've got company coming on Wednesday and you want to be in a state of mind to enjoy them. You are beating this. Good luck.

Bugged college kid said...

Hi nice lice lady! I need some advice... I am a college student, and my good friend who stays over in my room a lot had lice about a month ago. My roommate and i treated her, and my roommate checked me (and I checked her) but both of us thought the other was clean. Except, about a week ago, I found a louse in my hair. I had my roommate check again, and she still didnt see any eggs. But we used NIX anyway, and combed out my hair. Today I had another bug in my hair. I turned to your blog, and realized that the NIX probably didnt work. I just spent the last three and a half hours combing though my own hair (I didnt want to bother my roommate with it again) and I found 20 or so eggs, one full grown louse, and lots of tiny (baby?) lice. I am freaking out. I have already washed pretty much everything I own twice in the last week, and I can't afford to keep doing that. I also cant afford to spend hours every day combing my hair instead of doing my schoolwork. What do I do to make this go away?? I have pretty long hair, should I cut it? Is there a certain comb I should be using besides the one that came in the kit we bought? How can I beat lice in a college setting? Any advice would relieve a lot of stress. Thank you!

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Anonymous said...

Hello. Regarding combing with conditioner, I've used a white conditioner and it's hard for me to see what I'm combing out. Should I be looking for brown/black lice and reddish nits? I think I have a mild case at this point. Most of what I've seen was tiny brownish things (so small I'd need a microscope to tell what they are). Usually I comb after using a vinegar/water rinse on my hair and then I can see more of what's coming out (though still it's hard to tell but I worry when I see brown or black things). Can you please advise on this - is using vinegar rather than conditioner OK? Or will I get more out by using the conditioner? Thank you!

Cathy, the Nice Lice Lady. said...

I like using conditioner because it has some proven effectiveness in breaking down some of the glue that sticks the eggs to the hair shaft. I also like it because it helps keep the hair wet, detangled, and it makes combing easier. I don't think vinegar has any really beneficial properties in this regard, so if you prefer, just comb with wet hair - keeping the hair wet is the main thing.

Sarah V.L. said...

Cathy, thank you so much for having this blog. I live by myself but work in a group home and provide personal care for others, and we're going thru an outbreak of live. I got it when I was about 13 and my Gran was the one who noticed and made a big deal put of how dirty people only get it - a real knock to my self-esteem, so when I discovered I had lice last week I cried. Got online and read your post about how to handle it if you live alone... ordered a Nit-Free Terminator which arrived today and did the wet comb. I must've not had too bad an infection cause there was about 50-100 and I've been combing for about 2 hours, and I have to stop cause my scalp is irritated. But I wanted to say thank you for addressing the mental health aspect because there's such a stigma surrounding lice, and it's simply just one of those things we have to deal with on life.

samia hussain said...

nice post

tvflea said...

Hi Cathy, I've been dealing with lice for a month now. Combing twice a day with condioner and nit comb. The last week I have been down to around 7 "small brown specks" I just never can get to "nothing" as the op said, these are small brown dots that I cannot see good enough to tell what they are, even using a light, magnifying glass and taking pics and zooming in. Do you think these are live lice? Or a nit, I did see the white nits in the beginning but. It for awhile now. Do I need to keep combing? I'm going crazy!

amr elsa said...

If we take a look across the globe there are a wide variety of head lice treatments that are available, ranging from simple homemade remedies to special shampoos and oils. Head louse or lice are tiny insects found on the scalp of the head when one is infested. These can be spread through contact. A head louse infects your hair and it can live up to 30 days in your hair.

amr elsa said...

If we take a look across the globe there are a wide variety of head lice treatments that are available, ranging from simple homemade remedies to special shampoos and oils. Head louse or lice are tiny insects found on the scalp of the head when one is infested. These can be spread through contact. A head louse infects your hair and it can live up to 30 days in your hair.

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